Offenbach: Orphee aux enfers

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COMPOSERS: Offenbach
LABELS: Arthaus
ALBUM TITLE: Offenbach
WORKS: Orphee aux enfers
PERFORMER: Badea, Vidal, Duesing; Theatre de la Monnaie Chorus & Orchestra/Patrick Davin; dir. Herbert Wernicke (La Monnaie, Brussels, 1997)
This 1997 production, the work of the late German designer/ director Herbert Wernicke, is set in a lavish re-creation of a famous Brussels cafe. This flattering local reference gets a round of applause from the Brussels audience, as does the railway engine that crashes through the ceiling halfway through. It must have cost a bomb.


It’s one of those shows where almost everyone is wearing evening dress, and maybe this and the setting are making brilliantly satirical points that I’m wilfully missing. I also truss good singing, though Dale Duesing works hard — very hard — as Jupiter, while Alexandru Badea is a personable Orpheus and plays his own violin into the bargain. Reinaldo Macias is a winning Pluto, but the Eurydice is pallid and the Public Opinion should never be allowed to sing in public again. Ever. The sluggish conductor is Patrick Davin, but at least his approach matches the humour, which has all the lightness of a lead meringue. This is supposed to be a comic operetta, nein?.


There are only subtitles on the disc itself, though some useful articles feature in the booklet, even if the word ‘bourgeois’ seems to be something of an idee fixe. George Hall